ATTENTION * CONTENT UNDER REVISION* ATTENTION
This article is currently being reviewed with regards to the vocabulary used. However, the tips suggested can be applied without worry. Only a few very specific notions must be reviewed throughout the site, like territory (we now refer to it as environment), marking, pheromones and other specific concepts that have recently been the object of studies.
(The video version of this article is only available in French)
INTRODUCING A NEW CAT IN A HOUSE WHERE OTHER CATS AND/OR DOGS RESIDE
Picture yourself, sitting quietly watching TV, when all of a sudden, we introduce you to a person you don’t know and we tell you, “This is Arthur, he will share your home from now on!” That situation would be unpleasant for anyone. The principle is the same for your cat. When you bring a new animal in the house, you are telling him, “This is your new life companion: from now on, you will have to share your territory with him, like it or not!” Your cat’s shock and surprise are understandable, even more so when we know the importance he grants his territory.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to guarantee a successful introduction. In fact, the age of the cats, their gender and their breed have very little influence on the outcome of an introduction. In all cases, the introduction of a kitten between 3 and 5 months of age is usually easier than that of an adult with another adult. Finally, sterilization is almost essential to achieve a smooth introduction.
Step 1: Make sure that the newcomer is disease-free and is in excellent health. A visit to the veterinarian is strongly advised.
Step 2: Isolate the newcomer in a room with food, water and a litter box. Let him get used to his new environment, new scents and the presence of the other cats. This acclimation usually takes a few days. During this period, there must be no contact between the resident cats and the new cat.
Step 3: Periodically, switch the cats’ territories: let the new cat explore the house, while the resident cats are put away in the integration room. Then, put your new cat back in his room and let your other cats roam about the house. Repeat. This will mix feline scents. If you wish, you could spread treats around when you switch your cats to make it more fun. It would create a positive association with the new scents. If your cats try to smell one another through the crack under the door, let them!
Step 4: Do not go forward with this step before your newcomer and the resident cats are calm. In Cat Educator’s experience, several people, eager to see their cats mingle and play together, make the mistake of going forward with this fourth step too quickly. Make sure that a minimum of 3 to 7 days went by after the arrival of the newcomer before starting this step. You thus make sure that the best possible odds are in your favor for a successful introduction.
To make sure step 4 is successful, get the best treat or the favorite food for all your cats (canned food, tuna, chicken, commercial treat or even their regular food, if your cats crave it); in short, have within reach what they will eat with enthusiasm. It is important that each cat gets what he likes best. It is possible that you will have to get different options if your cats do not all share the same preferences. When you are ready, offer your cats the special treat or food selected for each, and then place each bowl a few meters apart on each side of the closed door. When they start eating, open the door a few centimeters. It is very important that your cats see one another without being able to touch. If you fear a fight might occur, you can install a screen door in the doorframe of the isolation room. Thus, they will be able to smell one another without touching. Otherwise, simply make sure that none of them can slip into the other room.
My cat does not eat
If one of the cats refuses to be fed when he sees the other cat, place the bowls further apart until the distance is sufficient for the individuals to be comfortable and to eat. After this first meal, repeat the experience as often as possible (at least twice a day), and let the door half-open longer each time, and put the bowls gradually closer.
My cat reacts aggressively
If the cats hiss, growl or try to hit one another with their paws through the door opening, do not intervene and place the bowls further apart for some time. This is a normal reaction: it is their way of talking amongst themselves and beginning the negotiations that will allow them to set up the rules that will govern their relationship.
* Do not proceed to the next step before the cats eat normally in the presence of one another, that is without hissing, growling or hitting one another. It may take between a day and two weeks, depending on the case.
Step 5: Open the door fully during a meal and let the cats interact between themselves. Once again, this meal has to be absolutely delicious, to the point that the cat will be more motivated to eat than to pay attention to the other cat. It is possible that the cats will hiss or growl, or that a squabble will arise. It is important not to intervene, even if you believe that one of your cats is being too intimidating or is being unjust towards the other. This negotiation, even if it is a little violent, will determine which one of them will have the right to feed first, which one will have ownership of a given territory in the morning, then in the evening, etc. The faster these negotiations are over, the faster things will get in order. If you intervene in this squabble, you will only delay things, and the quarrel will go on for nothing. If the situation degenerates and you are forced to intervene, do not try to separate the cats: rather, try throwing a small cushion in their direction or clap your hands without looking at them. Thus, they will not get the impression you are meddling in their business.
IMPORTANT – If fights are too frequent, if one of the cats seems terrified of the other, or if the violence of the fights causes physical injuries, isolate the cats in separate rooms and contact a Cat Educator immediately.
The new cat is the winner in the negotiations
It is possible that your new cat wins some aspects of the negotiations. For instance, he may win the privilege of sleeping with you. Do not see that as an injustice. It is important that you respect the agreement between the cats. Each will know what to do to respect the terms of the settled agreements and you will live in harmony!
The benefits of playing
Playing is an excellent way to allow cats to get acquainted. They will associate the presence of the other to something positive. Play a lot with all your cats together. Since each cat usually has his favorite toy, ask for the help of other family members so that all play at the same time and in the same room. Not only will playing improve their relationship, but is will also strengthen the relationship you have with your cats, whether they be your older ones or your newcomer!
If any of these steps do not unfold as anticipated or if fights are too frequent or too violent, contact Cat Educator who will be able to guide you better.
INTRODUCING A CAT IN A HOUSE WHERE THERE ARE DOGS
Whether you introduce a cat in a house where there is a dog, or a dog in a house where there is a cat, the integration process is the same. The advantage is that a great number of dog owners have a cage for their animal, or can use a leash to control him. Thus, instead of isolating the cat in an integration room, the dog can be isolated in his cage or leashed while the cat roams free about the house to explore his new environment. An integration room should be available nonetheless so that the small feline may rest separate from the dog. The cat will then have the liberty of getting close to the dog’s cage to make his acquaintance at his own pace.
Time to eat!
Feed both animals through positive reinforcement by applying the same method detailed above. Make sure to reward your dog when he shows good behavior, that is when he is calm and respectful and when he does not chase your cat. However, you must never lock your cat in the dog’s cage. Also note that the more the cat has access to high places in each room, the more he will move around at ease, for he knows he can get away from the dog anytime if he feels the need. To this effect, cat trees (see our article on cat trees) are very useful. Note that when he is perched atop his tree, your cat will be more inclined to watch your dog to understand how to approach him safely.
To further explore the subject, read the following article (in French) : http://www.demaindemaitre.ca/introduction-presentation-chien-chat/